Fantasy. Dining @ Fäviken Magasinet
This is it, our quest for the perfect dining experience has brought us across seas of soup, through caverns of canapés and over mountains of meat but there is no journey nor meal that could prepare us for the foodie trip we are about to take. Tonight we dine in the middle of nowhere, home to Magnus Nilsson, this is Fäviken.
Located in Järpen on the 19th century Fäviken Egindom estate, which consists of 20,000 acres of farmland, this restaurant is truly in the middle of nowhere. Flying into Stockholm, Jess and I take a 9 hour train just to get close to this foodie dream. More on that story here.
The estate is like falling through the wardrobe and into Narnia. Pine trees hug the road as our taxi driver speeds along the gravely surface. Game birds dart from the scrub cunningly evading sight of the birds of prey circling over head. Then we arrive, the gorgeous farmhouse a cherry red dot in the distance. I instantly get butterflies of excitement, since reading Chef Nilsson’s book I have dreamt of dining here. This is the epitome of living the dream, for me this is what our journey is about and I’m so glad we can share it with all of you. We check into our room and prepare ourselves for dinner.
Dinner at Fäviken is a ritual; thirteen lucky diners gather in the barn for canapés where we get to know each other. This review is going to be long so get your reading glasses on folks.
Chef Nilsson meets us at the door, a warm handshake of my trembling digits and we get to have a quick chat. He smiles and says “nice to meet you, I hope you have fun tonight.” Then it starts. Canapés, flaxseed and vinegar crisps with mussel dip. Wow! The crisp is wafer thin and completely held together by a vinegar tuille. The tuille is almost a display in aerodynamics, and the mussel dip is an oceanic emulsion that is light and fluffy. I’m drinking a beer made from rhubarb on the estate and Jess is of course on Champagne.
Chef Magnus enters the room and silence falls, a clap of the great chefs hands and he introduces our next course. A little lump of very fresh cheese served in warm whey with lavender. “This cheese is less than six minutes old” Nilsson explains “and is best eaten all in one go.” Yes chef! Down the hatch. The warm silky cheese is completely loved by the soft fragrance of dried lavender.
We take a seat on fur covered couches and suddenly canapés arrive in force. A signature of Fäviken, wild trout’s roe served in a crust of dried pigs blood. Now we are into it. This is Rektùn, Nordic cuisine, the food of Sweden, we dine like Vikings. The roe is delightfully fresh and pops under tongue, the blood giving a richness and almost spiced note, very reminiscent of black pudding.
My favourite canapé is next, Pig’s head, dipped in sourdough and then deep fried, pickled gooseberry and pine salt. Oh lord! Unbutton my trousers and give me a bag of these things, I could scoff them down like Cheetos! The pig is oozingly soft, the bread crisp and gold, the gooseberry and pine add a herbaceous tart note that brought everything together. Yum!
Crispy lichens arrive on stone with a lightly soured garlic cream. The lichen themselves held a delicate flavour enhanced by shaved fish roe but the soured cream gave them a subtle richness that kind of made them the “chips and dip” of the incredible beginnings. Served alongside these are slices of cured sow. The sow is hand chosen by chef before being butchered, hung and cured by the kitchen.
I need to tell you, I thought I had an understanding of paddock to plate. I mean I’ve foraged, I love to learn about where the food comes from. I know nothing. What Nilsson does here is something else. It is beyond paddock to plate, ingredients are chosen daily. Whether they’re grown on the estate and picked the night before, painstakingly hand foraged from beneath layers of frost or picked from a very limited list of suppliers the chefs know and trust. If it’s not the best it’s simply not good enough. It is a beautiful way to treat food and an inspiring vision for a restaurant.
The final canapé is salted herring, aged for three years, sour cream and rusks. Yes I said aged for three years. The dining room is filled with different hanging meats, fish and hams. Despite its age, the fish has a quite mild flavour, tamed with the cream and nutty rusk.
It is time for us to move upstairs, the loft of the barn is transformed into a stunningly rustic dining room with the main theatre being a large wooden kitchen bench complete with a chopping block. Our first course is promptly served. Scallop “i skalet ur elden” cooked over burning juniper. No cutlery, the dish arrives branches still smoldering, we pry open the shell and see the ocean gem inside. A perfectly poached scallop cooked in a broth evoking the ocean. The scallop is meaty and soft, the broth, sweet and light. Together this dish is simply amazing. An inspired use of fantastic produce and wonderful Nordic technique. The juniper adds a floral bitterness that offsets the sweet scallop meat. I love this place.
Continuing with seafood King crab, seared and sprayed with “attika” vinegar, almost burnt cream. This was one of Jess’s favourite dishes. The courage to serve a “burnt” sauce with such a premium ingredient is inspired. The crab is succulent and sweet, the cream is nut brown, kind of like a Buerre noisette flavour. The milk solids are lovely and caramelised and hey it’s a burnt sauce.
Poached turbot comes paired with burnt shallots as well. The turbot is wonderfully soft with large white flakes feathering away from the fork, the onions are sweet and slightly smokey with an onion vinaigrette tying the dish together with a little acid.
Cod and sunflower. Two ingredients, what a dish. The cod is cooked in a dry pan so the flesh is ever so slightly charred, the sunflower arrive in many textures. A paste that gives a nuttiness to the cods fattiness, fresh green sunflower seeds that were both textural and floral, and a vinaigrette of sunflower oil and juice. This dish was as if a fish had fallen into a veggie patch, it was nutty and vegetative along with being of the sea. A delight to eat.
Palates beginning to swim with flavour combinations it’s time for another little rush of canapé sized course. A raw blue shell mussel filled with beer, dried birch leaf was a one bite flavour explosion. The mussel was so soft in texture it didn’t feel real, the beer has hoppy notes and the birch leaf brings everything down to earth.
An insanely crisp and thin pie crust baked from pea flour is filled with eggs and seasoned with dried cods roe. The young pastry chef places the tiny quail eggs into the warmed crust as we pop them in our mouths and crunch before they simply disappear. This course seemed simple but simplicity can become extremely complex. The food here is a work of art.
Barley pancakes filled with sour onions prove to be exactly as described, the onions are of numerous varieties including chive, onion flowers, spring onion and they are equally as enjoyable as each other. The barley is a warm toasty flavour I feel is completely under utilised in cuisines today.
Suddenly a plate of leaves is put in front of us. Jess’s eyes bulge, I knew there would be challenges but this is leaf litter, this is natural to a whole new level. Thankfully chef explains that our next dish is buried beneath the leaves. We have to forage for our meal, the leaves are from the grounds, they’re covered with winter snow where they lay until the spring. This gives them an earthy characteristic and I’m not going to lie, they smell amazing. Underneath is the tiniest, cutest new potatoes, par boiled they have taken on the flavour of the leaves on top. They’re served with some of the best butter I’ve ever had. Cultured and of course house made, from milk the chefs milked from the cows this morning. This place is just amazing.
Bite size courses end and in front of me is a porridge of grains and seeds from Jämtland finished with a lump of salty butter, fermented carrots and wild leaves, meat broth filtered through moss. Wow, this is insanely textural and delicious. Yes I said moss, not only does it freshen the broth, it adds a herb note unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. The fermented carrot is sour but fruity also and the butter gives everything a cultured flavour. I loved this dish, all the foraged herbs, the texture of the grains, everything in it was magical.
Then it arrived. A huge, roasted femur of a cow, crackly and golden. The chefs place it on the chopping block and saw, scooping out freshly roasted bone marrow. This slippery goodness is then mixed with dices of raw cows heart, flower petals and herb salt. It is placed in front of Jess as she realises what she is about to eat. With surprisingly little hesitation she dives in. I am smearing the delicious mix into slices of sourdough toast and feeling more and more like a Viking with each bite. The heart is actually not a strong taste, it has a rather sponge like texture with a little chew, the marrow is soft and rich, the flowers and herbs bring a lightness to the dish. This was my favourite dish of the evening, the taste, the texture. I loved it.
Still dominating my Viking feast the next course arrives, quail and bird cherries. The quail of course comes from the property and is served basically whole. Perfectly cooked with a crisp head on the side. The cherries are fruity and acidic, cutting through the rich quail meat. I even got to pick my teeth with the claws. Served with no cutlery of course this is another meal I was happy to be up to my elbows in. Served alongside was a little taste of the birds liver, pate en croute, thank you very much.
With that course marking the end of the savoury courses it was time for a palate refresher. Cottage cheese, mushrooms and spruce. Yes a palate refresher. This was one of the most unusual cleansers I have ever eaten. The fresh cottage cheese had an acidic sourness and the raw mushrooms on top gelled with the spruce in a way that was oddly refreshing. My palate did indeed feel completely cleansed.
The first sweet course is colostrum and meadowsweet. Arriving in tiny edible egg shells the colostrum has an almost quark or mascarpone flavour with the meadowsweet acting like a soft honey. For those of you unfamiliar, colostrum is the first cast of milk from a cow either in late pregnancy or just given birth. It is packed full of nutrients and antibodies and is in fact very good for you. Ok so it’s cow breast milk, lucky it’s delicious.
Spoons arrive topped with lingonberries, thick cream, sugar and blueberry ice. The lingonberry are tiny pops of tartness with the wonderful luscious cream. The blueberry ice is exactly like a sorbet, except contains only the sugars from the blueberry themselves. It is very intense and almost earthy in flavour.
A tiny little bowl of warm curd is next. It is in fact curdled woodruff milk. The woodruff is very grassy in flavour, the curd has a fluffy texture but it is a delightful little morsel and gives the innards a little warmth needed after the frozen sorbet.
An egg yolk preserved in sugar syrup, served on a pile of crumbs made from pine tree bark, ice cream seasoned with meadowsweet. This is dessert. The egg yolk has an almost glass like exterior that the spoon cracks through, the crumb has a treacle like flavour and mixed with the meadowsweet ice cream the result is a soft, mushy dream like substance that Jess and I just could not stop eating.
Our final course is prepared table side in front of us. Sour milk sorbet, raspberry jam and whisked duck eggs. Chef furiously churns the milk base into a light icy sorbet that is dropped into a fluffy, frothy duck egg sabayon. Underneath is a slightly sour raspberry jam that cuts through the rich duck egg wonderfully. It’s a fantastic finisher to what has been a divine meal.
With full stomachs we retire downstairs for a selection of teas made from foraged ingredients on the premises. A seat on one of the comfy couches and we are presented with our final course this evening. The Fäviken sweet box. A wooden box filled with cured reindeer meat pies, raspberries ice, tar pastilles, meadowsweet candy, dried berries, sunflower seed nougat, anise seeds coated in crystallised honey and beeswax, smoked toffee, pine resin, cake. Yes as if we hadn’t eaten enough, the sweet box is ready for us to dive in. I go straight for a meat pie, I’m Aussie of course. The reindeer is so strong it nearly takes my breath away, much gamier than anything I have eaten before. The candies are sweet and with my tea made with birch, the immortality mushroom, and leaves from the garden the earthy sweetness rounds out what was an utterly unforgettable meal.
The giant sweet box is accompanied by snus fermented in a used bitter barrel. A kind of chewing tobacco, that sticks underneath the front lip. It is very peppery and tastes a little dirty, still we are in Sweden and I want to try everything. Seated on warm furs chewing tobacco, drinking foraged tea. Then it gets better. Our charming sommelier takes us outside, the northern lights are vivid green in the night sky. This is incredible, a perfect way to round out what was an unforgettable experience that not only changed my way of thinking but will change the way I cook.
Chef Nilsson and the team at Fäviken have created something truly unique and it is an experience that I don’t think we will ever match. From our arrival on the farm, the brilliant food and the incredible night sky to finish this is a once in a lifetime destination. Make the trip, step through the darkened pine forests, Trudge the mountain path.
It’s a beautiful world out there.
Dining at Fäviken has made me truly recognise this.
Josh and Jess
Dined 2nd October 2013
Fäviken 216, 830 05 Jarpen, Sweden